Jennifer L. Holm - The Fourteenth Goldfish

Galileo. Newton. Salk. Oppenheimer. Science can change the world…but can it go too far? Eleven-year-old Ellie has never liked change. She misses fifth grade. She misses her old best friend. She even misses her dearly departed goldfish.

Then one day a strange boy shows up. He’s bossy. He’s cranky. And weirdly enough…he looks a lot like Ellie’s grandfather, a scientist who’s always been slightly obsessed with immortality. Could this gawky teenager really be Grandpa Melvin? Has he finally found the secret to eternal youth?

Delve into the magic of the captivating twist on tradition, empowering young readers in the pages of this enchanting Key Stage 2 book.

Genre: scifi, fantasy, science

Themes: Coming of age, friendships, diverse families, science vs arts

Age: 8-9 years old

The Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer L. Holm book cover


  1. In groups, get your learners to create a presentation about the scientists mentioned (Jonas Salk, Robert Oppenheimer, Galileo Galilei, Marie Curie, Louis Pasteur, Isaac Newton). They could include information about: what did they discover? What impact did they have on the world? Did they face any obstacles? What period were they in? (CC links: science, history, ICT)
  2. Split your class into two and debate the pros and cons of being able to reverse the aging process. Start by brainstorming the ways people can do it today (anti-wrinkle creams, health and exercise, surgery) and get learners to weigh up the argument for a ‘fountain of youth’ invention that could reverse aging. 
  3. Create a series of postcards that share Melvin’s trip to see the country. The postcards could include landmarks, maps and descriptions of the places he’s visited and the thoughts and feelings he had whilst there. (CC links: geography, ICT, English) (See ‘Postcard’ resource)
  4. Time capsule challenge. Get your learners to imagine themselves in 10 years time and write a profile about what their life looks like. Where will they be? What will they be doing? Who will they be with? How did they get there (university, college etc.)? What do they enjoy doing? What foods/drinks do they like?
  5. Ellie describes herself at the dance: “I’m a jellyfish glowing in the dark sea, bright and brilliant, just waiting to be discovered.” Get learners to describe themselves as a sea creature.

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